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