email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Monday, May 31, 2010

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Garden Started Outside 2

I thought I would provide more information about the trellis area of the garden.  While I enjoy growing my tomatoes the most, the trellis is the place I enjoy most.  First, let me describe it.

It is 30' long by 2' wide by 12" tall.  It is that long because that's the total length of the individual adjacent beds when I first constructed the garden.  It is 2' wide because I grow the trellised crops on the front foot and plants that can use some shade on the back foot.  Plus, I built it after the rest of the beds as an afterthought and if it was any wider, my push mower wouldn't fit between it and the fence.

There are 4x4" 8' posts at each end and one in the middle.  The trellis itself is concrete remesh wire with 6"x6" openings.  The remesh is 6" off the ground and 5' high.  Attaching the remesh was quite a project in itself about 15-20 years ago.  My best friend and I decided that remesh was the best tomato cage material (and I still agree, but if I could get vinyl-coated remesh, I would buy it).  We researched sources and costs and the price was dramatically better past a certain length.

Well, that was more than we needed, but I had been thinking of a sturdy trellis.  Serendipitously, that length got us close to the "good price" and we ordered that.  There was 20' extra, but I found a good use for that 2 years ago (more on that in the future).

So, we made our tomato cages and I used most of the rest for the trellis.  It was difficult to attach to the posts.  Well, we were inexperienced at such things.  The vertical wires didn't line up with the posts, so we had to bend the remesh around the outer corners to fit (just try that sometime; the wire is really strong).  And we couldn't get it to pull tight along the length and from top to bottom  (like a bedsheet with wrinkles).

I figured out a way later, but it was too late and that's beside the point.  But I'm keeping it in mind because after all these years, it needs to be replaced soon.  The remesh is still sturdy, but the posts are rotting.

Anyway, I told you all this to talk about what I grow there...

I garden by the Square Foot Method (Mel Bartholomew) as best I can.  I do it for small crops.  I don't agree with it for large crops (can't help it, I just like large cages for big heirloom tomatoes).  But the trellis area is seriously "Square Foot". 

I planted garlic in the front foot last Fall 15' long (2 garlics per square foot).  On the back side, I have alternated individual square feet for carrots, scallions, beets, radish, shallots, spinach, celery,  chinese cabbage, leeks (and I am probably forgetting a couple) in succession planting.  When the first are harvested, I will replant with the same crops but in different squares (Square Foot gardening makes for automatic crop rotation).  I am adding parsnips this weekend.

I harvested my first radishes of the year yesterday.  SPICY!  Not like that bland stuff you get in grocery stores.  And I should start harvesting the garlic next month or early July.

Here's the only picture I have at the moment.
You can see the garlic, the beets and the radishes.  The other stuff is still way too small to see.  Well, the celery is large enough, but its not in that picture.  You can see the remesh wire if you look carefully.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Poison Ivy Woes

I have constant problems with poison ivy.  It's partly because this neighborhood was developed from mature woods in the 80s/90s and partly because I left most of the backyard wooded.  It took a decade just to get the scrub trees (like thorny locust) cleared out.  I like the semi-natural look I have.

But it is partly because 2 adjacent neighbors totally ignore their yards next to mine.  One has a drainage easement through their back yard (10' from my fence) and they basically ignore everything on the side near me.  The other has 10' of brambles near my fence and just never bothers with that area.  A 3rd neighbor is basically absent for some reason (I think the property is involved in a divorce dispute), and while he mows the yard every couple of weeks, he pays no attention to the edges.

So I am constantly fighting off poison ivy coming in through the fence.

I used to have little reaction to it, but several years ago, I got a full body rash from it.  It was a miserable 2 full weeks.  Some of the poison ivy in the neighbor yards is mature enough to produce berries and the birds evidently drop the seeds all around the yard.  New plants spring up out of nowhere even near the house.

I saw the first new poison ivy plants leafing out 2 weeks ago.  They are now fully leafy.   I am an organic gardener.  But that garden/flowerbeds/lawn.  For poison ivy (and also rampant honeysuckle, wild grape, and some vine I haven't identified), I turn to Brush-B-Gon!

So today was "Spray Day".  I filled up my large pressure sprayer (portable, but just barely) and made the rounds.  I was shocked at how much poison ivy was around the yard and how mature some of the plants were!  That's partly because I have been clearing problem spots and revealing places I haven't looked into for years.  For example, I discovered (to my horror) that there is a huge poison ivy vine coming up over the fence and growing 20' up a tree in MY own yard! 

I can pretty much kill off most of the plants in my yard, but I can't get rid of the sources.  I spray carefully (short controlled spray individual plant by plant) through the fence as far as I can (the neighbors have no landscaping near the fence), but there is always more growing back the next year.

So I have a dilemma.  If I ask the neighbors to control/spray the poison ivy in their yards, they will spray wildly right through the fence on a windy day and kill all my plants and flowers.  If I don't mention the problem, I will have poison ivy forever.

Maybe I should ask them if I can spray in their yards and do it carefully...

Anyway, I went around the yard spraying poison ivy plants with great pleasure.  I can't wait to see them turn brown and die!  It was a sunny and nearly windless day, so it was safe.  And only an hour later, all the leaves were dry, so I know they soaked in the spray.

I'll try to remember to post pictures of the dead poison ivy next week...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Perennial Day 2, Part 2

Well, I went to plant the new hostas I received a few days ago and got a real surprise!

The existing hostas are all fully grown.  So I just assumed that where there weren't any, they had died, and I had ordered replacements.  At every spot but one today, I found vole holes around the roots, but each one was still surviving and just now sending up new shoots!

Now I have 9 hostas to find new places for.  I have 2 hosta beds.  The backyard one has hostas placed far enough apart so that they are individual specimens.  I don't want to add more there.  The front yard bed has them crowded and overlapping (poor planning on my part, but the effect IS lush), so I CAN'T add more there.

Guess I'll have to make a 3rd hosta bed.  I certainly have enough shade...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Garden Layout

This is a reasonably good view showing the garden layout.  It is mostly six 8' by 3' by 12" high framed beds, plus a 30' long by 2' wide trellis bed and two 3' by 3' beds.  The trellis gets the cukes, italian flat pole beans, snow peas, and sometimes I try growing cantaloupe up it (without much success).

The 2 red beds have 4 tomatoes, 2 bell peppers, and a bush watermelon each.  I'll be adding basil and marigolds soon.  The red is a plastic that is supposed to reflect the light frequencies tomatoes use most efficiently.  When you don't get full sun in your garden, you try anything.  LOL!

The bed between them has broccoli, cabbage, and radichhio (a red chicory).  It is half-full of beebalm (Monarda) that I moved there "temporarily" 3 years ago.  I've left them there because it seemed a good idea to have a great bee attractant in the middle of the garden.

The nearest bed is the one I moved from a shady spot to this sunnier one last month.  In most of the garden, I have black plastic covered with old carpet to suppress weeds between the beds.  So, the lawn growing between the rest of the beds and the new one is temporary.  As soon as I get ahold of some more old carpet, I'll eliminate that.  Meanwhile, it is spaced just far enough to allow my lawn mower to fit.

The 3' by 3' beds are for herbs. 
I have thyme, tarragon, oregano, chives, cilantro, sage, and parsley. And there is a rose draping over to liven up the colors.   The 2nd 3x3 bed has the rose in it right now.  I really need to move that rose.  I just don't know exactly where to put it.  And since it is the last remnant of my 1st landscaping project here (24 years ago), I don't want to just toss it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Perennial Day 2

Yay, I got more of the plants I wanted to fill in most of the spaces to make BIG patches of the same plants.  I ordered some of the plants I needed to fill out large patches (about 8' circles) but not enough to really do it.  I just can't get myself to spend enough money at one time.  So I had to place 2 orders of plants to do it in 2separate orders.  LOL!

But the fill-ins are here ($200 later).  I don't really mind the cost, it just can't be so much in a single order.  I'm weird that way.

Well, they ARE perennials.  They will live for many years.  And I have chosen ones that have long lives and do well here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me

Turned 60 today.  Heh.

I didn't care when I turned 30.  Or 40.  Or even 50.  But I thought I would care when I turned 60.  Somehow, I thought turning 60 would be a major change, like turning 21.

Nah.  I feel the same as 40.  That's actually weird.  I feel like I SHOULD feel different.  I think I SHOULD feel older at 60. I just don't though.  I'm just as competent or not competent at the same things as I was 20 years ago.  I know more science than I did at 40, but that's only because there is more science to know now and I do keep up with it.  I don't understand people any better now than I did at 40, but that's probably just me.

I guess I'm still in that "middle-aged" limbo.  Somewhere between "stupid young adult" and "losing-it old guy".

I'm not doing anything today to celebrate it, but I'm not doing anything to mourn it either.  I just don't feel like today is all that different from yesterday or a day 10 years ago.  Maybe 70 will start to feel "old".  I'm just not there yet.

Which is maybe a good thing...

Last year on this day, my parents were visiting.  Once, my Mom asked what the date was.  I said "May 21st, my birthday".  She asked again an hour later and I said the same thing.  That didn't even get a reaction from either parent.  Dad was there at the table.  Neither one recognized "my birthday" as having any meaning among us.  And that's when I knew they were "losing it".  Because Mom never forgot my birthday before.  And Dad was supposed to be the "memory" for both of them.  She has lost her memory and HIS memory no longer serves them.  And they don't realize it.  That is so sad...

So today, and each year on this day, I mostly now mourn the "loss" of my parents.  They are still alive, but their memories, their "selves", our connections, are gone...  I will never have "them" back.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Belated Mother's Day

I tried my best to get the scanner to work Sunday and Monday, but I couldn't.  I fixed it today. 

This is the picture I wanted to post...

All my love, Mom...


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Perennial Day!

I usually order some new perennial seedlings from Bluestone Perennials (a wonderful supplier) each year.  In the past, I've ordered 3 of this, 6 of that...  But the flowerbed always looks disorganized.  And I have a difficult "partly shady" bed.  This year, I decided to order more of the plants that have been successful here and enlarge the individual groups.  I want larger areas of successful flowers.

The Salvia Purple Rain have done well and expanded to 8x8 feet and looked great last year.  They're what got me changing my mind on the design.  So the 6 Stokesia were good and I ordered 15 more.  The 6 Veronica Royal Candles did well, so I added 9 more.  And the Trollius thrived, so I added 9 more of them too.  My Goldenrod are spreading politely, so I will let them expand in the 2 spots they occupy.  The asters always do well here and they are spreading, so I will leave them some room.  I intend to end up with about 8x8 foot areas for all of them.

Some have not done so well.  I had a large are of Columbine ans one adjacent of coreopsis.  They all died after 3 nice years.  Maybe they are short-lived perennials...  But I won't be getting more of them.  For whatever reason they didn't like my soil or watering habits or sunlight.  I love Columbine, but if they won't thrive here, I won't keep trying.  I had them in 4 different places and they just don't like my yard.  Oh well!

The coreopsis thrive in the planters, but not in the ground.  Lovely as they are, they are "out" of the main flowerbeds.

The coneflowers do well, and I divide them every few years to spread around.  They don't seem to mind being divided and return beautifully.

All my Black Eyed Susans did great in one place for 4 years then almost all died last year.  Well, more accurately, they just didn't return this year.  I have no idea why.  I'm growing some from seed and will try to replant at a different location.

In the places where perennials died, I am planting annuals this year.  Grown from seed, there is less of an investment, and if they grow well, I will know it is not the soil.  In the Fall, if the annuals do well, I will dig the soil deeply and add more compost etc.  Then try perennials again.

So, I got to work in the garden today planting some of the additional perennials!

First, I scraped the soil with the scuffle hoe to undercut as many weeds as possible.  I doubled the number of Trollius.  I wish I had ordered 3 more.  That would have JUST filled the spot.



I added 9 more Veronica Royal Candles.  That was about the right number.  I had 9 before.



The Stokesia Asters Professor Jellito (or something like that) were great last year.  I am increasing them for 9 plants to 24.  But that means moving 2 groups of a few surviving plants not doing very well.  I have a spot to move them to.  Sunnier, so maybe they will be happier (and a source for more plants of their kind next year if they do well).

But I haven't planted them yet.  First, the area is covered with mock strawberries (the bane of my garden) and I had to go though and dig them out individually first.  And it is also covered with a a very invasive Salvia called Purple Knockout. that I originally planted 40' away.

Warning, don't ever buy Salvia Purple Knockout!  It self-seeds into the lawn, the apple bed, the other flowers, etc.  It is evil!  It spreads EVERYWHERE!  If I hated a neighbor, I would give him cell packs of this perennial nightmare.  If my property was to lay abandoned for 20 years, the only growth would be mock strawberry, salvia purple knockout, virginia creeper vines, and poison ivy.  ARGHHH!

And I spent 2 hours pulling mock strawberry plants out of the area where I want to remove the Salvia purple knockout and plant more of the stokesia.  It isn't easy easy!  They don't up by the roots easily.  You have to pinch down a bit and get ahold of the knobby crown.  They are so hard to eliminate.  If you don't get the knobby crown out, they return and send out runners.

And then there are all the wild onions!  I've learned there are only 2 times you can pull then out.  When the soil is very dry, or when the soil is very wet!

I collected quite a pile of weeds pulled out one by one today...

It may not look like much, but that's 1' high and 3' across.  And it's compacted because I raked it up across the lawn.  Each weed was carefully dug up with a dandelion fork to make sure the roots were out.  Those damned mock strawberries love to grow right up close to plants I want to save, so it take almost surgical skills to remove them.

I got almost 200 square feet cleaned of those mock strawberries today, and that was a big deal.  If it was a farm, I could just undercut the entire area and leave the weeds to dry and die.  But it is a perennial bed, so I have to go through the 100' x 10' bed picking through the desirable plants like going after hair lice nits.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Animal Crush Videos

I am against crush videos, of course.  There is enough suffering in nature.  No animal should ever be harmed for no useful purpose. That said, I have to agree very reluctantly with the Supreme Court ruling.

The law, though well-intentioned, was poorly written.  When I first learned of the law last week, I spent some time thinking about it.  The law was intended to prevent obvious abuses.  Filming animals being slowly and painfully crushed is beyond defense.  It is my personal opinion that only a very sick individual would want to watch such pain, and that such a person needs immediate therapy.  So it is hard to defend the Supreme Court striking down the law aimed at preventing that.

But I gave the law a decent reading and considered the objections to the existing law.  Some of the objections are weak and self-serving.  But some of the objections are legitimate.  As I understand it, the existing law could prevent:

1.     Documentaries trying to show animal abuse in order to promote more humane laws.
2.     Documentaries opposing dogfighting to be used in criminal cases.
3.     Documentaries opposing abusive animal experimentation.
4.     TV hunting shows.
5.     Personal videos of hunting activities.
6.     Nature films where any animal is hurt or killed naturally.

Do I think those likely?  No.  Is it intended?  No.  But it is possible under the existing law, and therefore it is “overly broad”.  For that reason, the law needs to be re-written to specify the kind of abuse intended.  It is not a question of whether exploitive and cruel crush videos are permitted, just how to define them properly.

I struggled to develop an analogy for this.  Suppose that someone made a real crush video for exploitive purposes.  And then suppose an animal rights activist made a copy of the video to use to raise public awareness against the practice.  The same scenes, but for different purposes.

Both would be equally punishable under the existing law.  That is not right, and that’s where the existing law went wrong.  Intent matters!

I fully support a more carefully-written law that specifies details and intent to protect animals from deliberate abuse more clearly.  The existing law just didn't do that very well.