Sunday, March 27, 2005

Seed Starting Part Deux

Happy Easter, everyone. My dear hubby and I are about to enjoy a little private champagne brunch, but I wanted to update you on the latest garden happenings, since readership is starting to pick up a bit and I haven't written for several days. (By the way, a Big Thanks to everyone who is linking to Can You Dig It? Please let me know if I can add your link to my ever-growing list.)

Last Sunday, I started the following seeds. The dryer technique described in my recent article caused some seeds to germinate in just one day! The Lemon cuke seedlings are already 3" high.

Seeds Started:

White Wonder

Round French

Festival F1


Caribbean Red
Super Heavyweight Hybrid
Purple Marconi
Nu-Mex Twilight Chile

Rosa Bianca

Today, I planted a long narrow windowbox-type planter with Melody Hybrid Spinach seeds. Melody is supposed to be more heat tolerant than most other spinachs, and I'm all about heat tolerance down here in Zone 7b/8.'s a nasty 43° today with more rain than you can shake an umbrella at. It started around 5 a.m. Saturday morning and hasn't let up since. I'm sort of glad, though; I sprayed beneficial nematodes on the lawn late Friday afternoon and they are supposed to remain wet after that. Boy, are they ever!

I've gotten very lucky with the lawn treatments overall. Last weekend, I applied corn gluten meal just before a big rain, which worked out well. We then had a nice dry period for several days before I received the nematodes in the mail and had to apply them Friday (they don't last long in their little plastic packet).

Also on Friday, the chimney guys who had placed a screen over our caps to keep the birds out came out to the house again, as they had forgotten to mount my bat house like I asked. I don't think they were very happy about it, but hey. I had agreed to pay them an extra $20 just to nail the thing onto the chimney, which I think is a pretty easy task. Took 'em about 30 seconds. Anyway, the bat house is now in place -- facing east to get good morning sun -- and we'll see if I get any bats. (I'm sure the chimney guys thought I had plenty of "bats in the belfry" already).

For those who don't know, bats are a wonderful mosquito controller. I just think they're cool! Big thanks to my brother for giving me the bat house as a gift in the first place.

I've added a Gurney's link to the vendors along the side. (Don't worry, I'm going to be cleaning up that area soon...I know it looks like the online version of Gardening Las Vegas-style.) I got a Gurney's catalog in the mail yesterday advertising a big sale, but none of the sale prices were registering when I got on the site to buy some stuff today. Hmm. Will give them a day or two to get it together, I guess. Some great prices on plants in the sale, including Pink Pampass Grass or Butterfly Bushes for only $4.95 each.

Well, that's about it...I'm off to drink some bubbly and eat chocolate with my sweetie.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Mother Nature's A Dom

If anyone wants to paint a picture of Mother Nature, I advise they depict her in head-to-toe black leather with a whip. She can be a beautiful but cruel b*tch sometimes.

Case in point: Today is the Official Final Frost Day for my Zone (7b or 8, depending on who you ask). The temperature? A chilly 43° with the "feels like" temp at around 35°. Grrr...and Brrr. No wonder the juncos hung around.

It's not freezing yet, I realize, but I did leave my Sago palms outside today. Luckily, however, I elected not to put the baby tomato plants out. They've taken enough of a beating lately; the wind has been horrific here the past couple of days and I actually scorched one plant to death (the Pineapple tom variety, which I didn't care much for anyway) because it was so darned hot on Saturday. Hot, I said. As in 80°+.

Moving on to other, less ungrateful topics...

I have taken several pictures of the separate beds in my yard and will be creating pages for each of them. That way, we can all enjoy the progression together. :) The photos will also help me to plan what should go where; I just got Photoshop at home and am going to use it to "virtually" plot the plants in the landscape with my computer. Should work out pretty well, I think, since Photoshop allows you to create layers and move them around, etc. I use it a lot at work and just love it.

Up to this week's nasty weather, the march toward spring has been pretty spectacular. The leaves are coming out on many of the trees (including my Japanese Maples) and the daffodils are giving way to vibrant masses of tulips.

My tasks for this weekend tentatively include mowing the yard and applying beneficial nematodes and corn gluten meal (if it's ok to put them both on...I have to check), and planting some 50 dahlia tubers, as my Dutch Gardens order is supposed to arrive today.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Taking Off

I took yesterday off to play in the dirt a little. It was a clear, bright day here and I really enjoyed working in the back yard and spending the day with my doggies. (It's also nice to now have outdoor speakers so I can listen to music as I work.)

My target was the bed that flanks our brick patio and faces East. It gets just a few hours of morning sun and will make a spectacular shade plant area, I think. I yanked the landscape cloth out with relative ease, but the wild strawberries growing there were another matter. Those pesky things are nearly impossible to clear. (And so much for the effectiveness of the cloth, eh?)

Once done, I dumped some composted bark chips onto the soil and worked it in with a pitchfork, leaving deep aerating holes as I went. The soil is pretty dark clay here too. *sigh*

I couldn't resist doing a little planting in the bed - I put in a variegated Japanese Maple called 'Searles' and a Hosta 'Red October' (both from Wayside) just for kicks.

I also potted up all seven of my tomatoes into gallon pots. Now begins the daily ritual of putting them in the sunny driveway every morning and bringing them in at night until they're ready to go in the ground, probably in a couple of weeks or so.

Reading Tom Spencer's Daily Muse has inspired me to pursue Passiflora aka Passion Flower vines, too. I ordered a plant-and-seed combo off of eBay last night for a mere $7.99.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Signs of Spring

Scenes of hope and beauty from around my yard...

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Various Heucheras

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Mexican Plum tree

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Emerging Ferns

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Shredded Umbrella Plant

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Magnolia 'Ann'

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Cloudy Can Be Sunny, Sometimes

It has remained overcast and around 60° all day today...which is just about perfect for planting stuff.

And plant I did, now that several of the backyard beds are cleared of debris. I put two of my three Devil's Tongue (dracunculus vulgaris) bulbs -- already sending out a large cone on top and lots of roots below -- and a Lilac "Sensation" (Syringa vulgaris 'Sensation' ) by the driveway gate. Hopefully the nice scent of the lilac will cancel out the stench of the dracunculus, the latter of which many have compared to rotting flesh.

Maybe I should refer to this as The Vulgaris Bed, eh?

Apparently the Devil's Tongue only smells bad for a day or two. This is a new plant for me, and while I think the look of it is totally cool (and not a little erotic), I don't want anything that smells like rotting flesh right by my back door, thank you very much, although my two doggies would probably like to put it to a vote.

I also put my little cauliflower and broccoli seedlings into the ground. The soil in that bed is just fabulous, although I think I'll have a problem with Bermuda grass later on during the summer. There are earthworms everywhere...surprising since the previous owners had Chemlawn out on a regular basis.

Got to visit a very sweet lady neighbor who lives directly behind us. She too is a gardener and has offered to divide and share stuff. "I have lots of Coral Bells," she said, "do you know what those are?" I didn't tell her I wrote a gardening column or sense coming off like a smarty-pants know-it-all...especially since I ain't one in the first place.

This lady (I can't for the life of me remember her name) has a serious orchid greenhouse too. Gorgeous vandas hanging everywhere. I need to ask her for some growing tips, for sure.

The rest of the afternoon was spent ripping out more landscape cloth from the long back flower bed that runs parallel to the swimming pool. I was afraid of yanking too hard on the cloth and tumbling into the frigid water, but luckily that didn't happen. Between staying dry and only chipping one fingernail, I think I did pretty well today.

If the rain holds off tomorrow, I'll tackle the rest of the landscape cloth and the wild strawberry growing in the patio bed. Ugh.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The March Toward Spring

Well, two more weeks before our supposed final frost date. We've really had it pretty lucky here this year - only one major snowfall, and that was back at Christmas.

I'm not totally packing up the frost cloth and old bedsheets just yet, mind you. The juncos are still here, hopping around frantically on the ground below my feeders. I don't know if they're lingering because more cold weather is expected, or if they're just stuffing themselves in anticipation of a long flight up North in the near future. (Much as I love the cute little ivory-tummied darlings, I hope it's the latter.)

Conversely, the robins have seemingly never left. Prior to moving to Plano, I'd never witnessed gangs of marauding robins like I have here. They descended in huge flocks upon our dwarf yaupons one morning and, along with the more sedate Cedar Waxwings, stripped the trees clean of berries. The poor mockingbird who regularly stands guard in our back yard was beside himself. Order has since been restored, but I put a half tangerine out for Mr. Mock to munch on as a sort of consolation prize.

Speaking of the back yard, my landscaping buddy Brian came out and did a terrific job of cleaning up. The huge dead vines that hung like picture wire on our back fence are gone, along with a couple of errant, sickly yuccas and a small tree I didn't like and couldn't identify. The rose bushes in the 20' west side bed are also gone. I need to amend that soil now with something to prepare it for some 50-odd dahlia bulbs. Not sure what, though; I was going to use compost but Swan Island Dahlias warns against it. I am skeptical, as were several others on the Yahoo! Dahlia list group. Maybe I'll just use a small amount. I hate to add peat moss, as it doesn't break down in or add nutrients to the soil, but I may have to. The bed is total black clay.

My seedlings are doing well. The cole crops are ready to go out on there own, while the tomatoes will remain indoors but will graduate to one gallon pots. I don't plan on starting summer fruits and veggies for about another month, but I get so darned excited about seed starting, you just never know.