Friday, March 7, 2014

Potting for Spring

So, we're in a drought.

We also haven't quite finished the front retainer for the major garden work.
Also, my back bothers me if I try to do too much gardening.

Grow, little bulbs! GROW!
BUT I had already ordered a ton of flower bulbs for fall planting! Oh no! What to do? I spotted these planters on sale on Home Depot- because the gardening department is right between the front door and the wood glue (Isn't it?) And setting them on the wall will 'beautify' and give the neighbors a sneak preview of it will be like some day, I hope!

For a couple of months (and very dry months at that) they just sat there on the wall, looking bored. Then suddenly, things started happening.
Congratulations! It's a... stemmy thing. And some leaves. ?

A stem here, a leaf there. It seemed like overnight, all of the baskets were showing greenery. Of course, three months ago, I was certain that I would remember what I planted in each one... HAHAHAHAH! I can't even remember what I ate for dinner yesterday. (Not true- leftover pizza and a bowl of cereal. Hey, it was my no-cook night, don't judge.) That tub obviously has those random ranunculus that I found in the bottom of my garden tool box, and some, um... long green stemmy things?

Ooh! This one I know! This one I was waiting for!
Cloth of Gold 
"Cloth of Gold" Snow Crocus!  And they are AMAZING! Just absolutely beautiful.  Only problem with them is that they just barely peek over the top of the container- you have to 'spy' on them. These came from Breck's Bulbs fall sale online, and I'm impressed. Each bulb has put out 3-4 flowers! And each individual flower blooms in sequence, so they've been going strong for nearly two weeks now!

For some reason known only to the fall-bulb frenzied Liz who existed last autumn, I bought something called "Baby Shower Mix", with pink tulips and baby blue hyacinths.

I think they're supposed to bloom at the same time, but who cares, right? Here's where I've had my only problem with the pots- rainwater gathered in the leaves of one of the tulips and settled in the bud, where it caused the bulb to start to rot out.  Oops. Better attention to spacing and drainage, I guess.

Anyway, most of the pots are still muddles of green stem and sprouts. One is obviously hyacinths, and with luck will be the Miss Saigon from American Meadows. There should be some apricot colored daffodils and some more of my favorite Triumph Tulips. They never last long enough, and they don't rebloom here, so if I killed them by trying to pot them, I'll be heartbroken.
Pink Tulips from the Baby Shower Mix
(What WAS I thinking?) 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Salad Bed Planter

What do you do with a pile of old bricks and a big empty space in the backyard?
Grow salad!
At least, that's the plan. Our backyard gets dappled sunlight year round and is currently a disaster mix of the previous tenant's low-maintenance (bark mulch covered and neglected) landscaping and the minimal work we've managed in between 'curb appeal' projects. Anything is better than what's there, so it makes experimenting more appealing.

I started with the pile of old bricks leftover from the walkway renovation project. I knocked the old mortar of some of them with a hammer, but I wanted a 'recycled' look, so I didn't strain myself cleaning them off. Then I cleared a space in the backyard of leaf-litter and debris.

I stacked the bricks two layers high, in a  rough circle that backs up against the sidewalk for easy harvesting and maintenance. Inside, I laid a couple of the rougher nastier looking bricks to help bolster it up. Mine is just loose-stacked because our backyard is in a state of flux. If I don't like it in a month, or a year, I can just take it apart. If you want something permanent, I see no reason not to mortar the brick in place.

My bed took three bags of soil, but since your bed will likely vary in size and shape, just take a rough measurement of depth and diameter and figure out how many cubic feed you'll want. I like the EBS Top Soil Plus blend, and I get it from Everygreen Nursery here in San Leandro. I Love Evergreen! The only problem is that it's too much fun! I generally spend an hour looking at everything (including saying hi to their beautiful koi) before getting down to business and finding what I need, which today was a heap of baby greens and some seeds.

In the very center, I planted a single dill plant, already well established from the nursery. It should grow tall and strong over the warmer months when the salad greens are fading.  Around that, I grouped three varieties of lettuce, including a leaf  lettuce entitled "Pinot Noir", presumably for its tasty purple color and a spiky leaf variety for texture, and some broad leaf spinach.  I planted single variety clusters and then took the 'odd man out' and stucked them in here and there for pop appeal. Around the edges, where they can drape over, I planted a few strawberries.

Sorry the pic is so yellow! My camera
seems to be losing it's white balance.

I seeded around all of that with edible viola, lemon basil and Grand Rapids leaf lettuce, all from Lilly Miller. Hopefully, they'll grow in and become the 'second crop'. I say hopefully because our backyard is rather wildlife friendly, and seeds and seedlings alike are tasty goods to our wild friends. Which brings me to my final step.
SLUGGO! That's right. Sluggo. I don't generally like baiting snails, but I've had it with them, and the gang at Evergreen promised me that this was the right stuff if I want stay organic and slay the slimy little suckers. The active ingredient is iron oxide which is present in most soils. Supposedly, the slugs and snails eat it on their way to the plants and it triggers their system to tell them that they're full, so they stop eating. 

So there you go!
A few spare bricks, a couple bags of soil, and a handful of greens from the local nursery and now all I have to do is water and wait.
And wait. And wait.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Garden Planning Time!

Veggies and Flowers And Fruits, OH MY!

Windsong Glads from
American Meadows
I just placed my American Meadows order (What on earth possessed me to order more gladioli? and hot pink ones, at that!?), and I've got about a dozen things in my Seeds & Things shopping cart waiting to be paid for, including some wacky things like pointy cabbages and purple carrots. So exciting! I can't wait to get started gardening this year. BUT, I'm finding myself with a lot of questions before I get started. Maybe you can help me?
Pointy Cabbage
Seeds & Things

First question: Does anyone know where to get decent quality burlap bags- preferably used for non-icky things, like potatoes, corn, or horse feed? I miss growing my own potatoes and I love the burlap bag trick.

Second question: Do you hate snails? I want all your snail slaying suggestions that don't include laying my garden an inch thick in snail bait. They apparently don't like beer (the little slugs do, though!).  I've been going out at dusk and hunting them, but mostly that feels like an exercise in futility as the numbers seem to be increasing, not decreasing.  If you have suggestions, I want to hear them!
Last question: Has anyone tried mounting a window box on a spray-stucco wall before? Any suggestions? I want to be able to reach out the kitchen window for herbs and greens, but the more I look at logistics, the more I get a headache.
I think that's all the questions I have for now. Maybe. Here's the front walkway this week! The Tete-a-Tete daffodils are going CRAZY and the Blue Ribbon Dutch Iris are starting to open. At the very end of the walk, right before the driveway, the hyacinths are in full bloom and smell amazing.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Crocuses! Or rather... Croci.

... But Croci sounds kind of silly, so we'll just take one crocus at a time.

Last fall, we (meaning mostly Scott) had our old broken concrete sidewalk stripped out. We replaced it with a fun walkway made of  broken chunks of marble composite countertop (We love Urban Ore in Oakland!) and lined with river-rock. We're pretty pleased with how it came out.  The great challenge was not disturbing the bulbs that were growing along the walkway.

Yellow Tiger Crocus
From the foliage that started coming up mid-January, I was guessing that the Dutch iris and the  Tete-a-Tete daffodils survived just fine, but there was no sign of thin grasslike croci coming up.  I'd just started to despair when I walked out the door last week, and there they were! Nestled in amongst the sweet alyssum, tiger crocus were blooming. These delicate beauties have sweet brown stripes and their foliage is variegated, making for interesting texture. Sadly, it seems that only four survived the landscaping project.

Pickwick Crocus
And then there were the Pickwick croci with their white petals and purple stripes. Again, only a few seem to have survived the devastation of the sidewalk so they'll have to be ordered and replanted again next fall.
I just love the way they go with the burgundy sweet allysum. You'd think I planned that, or something. Yeah! That's what I'm going with. All perfectly planned for maximum effect. I did it on PURPOSE. (That's one of the problems with being a wildflower/bulb person. Once you admit it, everyone knows you didn't plan anything, but just kind of put some stuff in the ground and hoped it came out okay.

The last bloomers were, surprisingly, the ones I thought we'd killed off! These little yellow charmers are from the American Meadows Wild / Snow Crocus Mix. The past two years have seen many purple and yellow blooms: I had lots of white the first year, but they never returned.  This year, only three lone yellows bloomed, so I'm seeing a fresh planting of these coming up next fall as well.  

My favorites, the tough little Crocus Minimus that I have planted in the front bed by the sidewalk, didn't do well this year- lots of foliage but only one bloom- and I failed to get a good picture of it. I think next year I'll mulch the front bed late in the summer, and see if they do better. Otherwise, gee... I'll guess I'll have to pick out more crazy little crocus for the yard! (I'm leaning towards Ruby Giants and Lady Killers for a pile of purple!)

Wild Crocus Yellow

Monday, November 19, 2012

Winter is Here? Already?

Okay, as some of you know, I had surgery on my back in May. That resulted in six weeks of lying on my side, followed by six weeks of returning to work part-time, and physical therapy that finally ended at the beginning of November. 

It also happened that during this time, we had our driveway jack-hammered up and only replaced half of it. There's a grand plan for retaining walls, a bio-swale with native plants, topped by a full vegetable garden!

There's only one drawback. I can still only lift about twenty pounds. Bending and twisting are verboten. So, needless to say this is a VERY slow process and somehow, winter came last week, along with torrential rain and dry sharp cold.

What's a girl to do when she can't build a wall, dig a hole, or turn soil?  I've decided there's only one thing to be done! Sheet Mulch! On Wednesday night, I intend to raid the scrap cardboard pile at work giving me ample 'starter' cardboard for the rest of the Holiday weekend.  San Leandro Garden Center has bulk mushroom compost at reasonable rates, and if I ask very nice, they'll bag and load it for me. They are so sweet there.

If anyone has great ideas for making the most of a sheet-mulching on what will next spring be the vegetable garden, please let me know!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

An Un-Garden Blog?

As some of you know, I've had ongoing back problems for awhile now. As a result, I haven't been doing any gardening at all. (Or yardwork, or landscaping, or really much of anything except spend a lot of time on the floor with ice packs.) I finally had to swallow my pride and hire someone to help me out.

I didn't want just anyone. I didn't want some guy with a lawn-mower racing all over my yard, or spraying pesticides or chemical fertilizers everywhere. I also didn't want someone who was going to charge me a fortune for work I didn't need. And most importantly, I wanted someone who loves soil, who loves growing things and understands that their cycles are an important part of our lives.

I found Sandra. (  She's exceeded every expectation. And while I feel horribly guilty about limping about the house while she's out working so hard, I'm so excited to see my yard looking once again like something I can be proud of.  She uncovered surprises I'd forgotten I'd planted or that I thought wouldn't regrow.

One of the best things about being a wild-flower/bulb person, however, is that even in terrible states of neglect, something will grow and bloom and shine, and I'll have some pictures up later of those.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Flowers and Fruits and ... Ugly Bugs?

Sweet Summer Cherry
                There is a moment in summer when the gardener spots that first gleam of red hidden beneath the foliage. She stops, maybe squats down to look more closely.  The ground is warm beneath her feet, and the scent, that unique raw smell of growing tomato plants surrounds her. (If you've smelled it, you'll understand. If you never have, the closest I can come is the flavor of a green tomato mixed with sunshine and fresh flowing water.) The fruit slips into her hand at the lightest touch, and there it is, gleaming tantalizingly in the sun: The season's first tomato. 

Needless to say, immediately after photographing it, I consumed it!
Buoton De Rose Begonia

In the flowerbeds, my "Shady Garden" out back is turning up begonias and lilies. I just seeded a whole heap of China Aster around the birdbath, too, so hopefully we'll have some late summer color coming on.

Sadly, out front, the poor gladioli are having a fairly short season and between the afternoon heat and the ravages of the katydids, aren't looking so good.  Where is my mantis! He saved me last year, but I've seen neither hide nor probiscus of him this year!
Gladiolus- Prosperity
My favorite pink/white bi-colors are going now, with the yellow and purples coming into bloom right behind them.
The most stunning gladiolus in my current collection is the white Prosperity from American Meadows. Simply GORGEOUS! White with just a hint of peachy yellow blush. It was supposed to be blooming with the Ravens right now, but the katydids have chompedchompedchomped up the poor Ravens so I don't know if they'll bloom at all.

But the big thing today was this...

These funky leaf-blisters are all over the poor manzanita bush. It looks like something rolled the edge of the leaf up to create a bubble (which I now know is called a 'gall') with sickly reddish color and livid nasty pink veins. Now maybe I watch too many alien horror movies, but these things look like they could start breathing on their own at any second!

Curious, I broke one open and about a gazillion little greenish-black bugs crawled out!  EW! BUGS! (Okay, 'gazillion' is a kind of wide estimate. Maybe not so much with the accuracy there.)

Okay, what are they?  I thought hunting them down would be hard but a quick Google-hunt refined down to "manzanita leaf bug" found them. And sure enough, they are... TA DA!  "Manzanita leaf bugs".  Needless to say, that was somewhat anti-climactic.  They're actually called Manzanita Leaf Gall Aphids, aka Tamalia coweni.

Nothing I'm seeing says that they do real harm, but I'm not feeling overly generous to them at the moment. In fact, I think I see a wonderful career in Green Waste Management in their future.