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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Getting The Garden Ready

In between the near-daily rain last week, I got the garden beds prepped for the season.  I had some free County-supplied mulch in a pile for 2 years, and it composted nicely.  The stuff was like fine leaf-mould.  So I added 3" to each of my beds

I took pictures of doing one of my 6 raised beds.  Here is the composted mulch on top...
I added slow-release organic fertilizer.  I blend it from 2 sources, but it is about 10-10-10.  Then I turned the soil, twice, with a spading fork.
Then leveled it with a rake and tamped it lightly. 
Consider it repeated 5 times for the other beds.  I love the rake I found a few years ago.  Its not a "bow" rake.  This is a "leveling" rake.  It is exactly 24" wide (useful for measuring) and has a straight bar on the back to make everything smooth and even.

As soon as the weather is right (about another week), I am ready for the tomatoes, peppers, melons, etc!  Meanwhile, I am hardening off the seedlings.  One hour the first day, 2 hours the next, etc til 8 good sun hours.  I can hardly wait...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Marks (Murphy's) Law

I love my riding lawn mower.  But it seems to develop a new problem every Spring.  This year the choke knob broke off in my hand.

I'm one of those people who NEVER have normal problems.

My "Top 30" plant provider sent me the wrong plant 5 years ago and it turned out to be "wickedly invasive".

My twice-spayed cat STILL goes into heat.

Any repair problem is "Wow, I've never seen THAT happen before.

My "Murphy's Law" event is what "Can't happen",  does.

So, naturally, the choke knob problem was "that doesn't happen".    Well, it did.  I pulled the choke out as usual a few days ago and the shaft snapped right off.  I could feel it.  And it just came out loose when pulled.  You can't start an mower that needs the choke adjusted when you can't adjust it...  I felt around inside the engine compartment to see how it was attached, but couldn't see a clue to how to get at it.  It turns out later that the entire gas tank has to be removed.  "Not something I want to mess with".

So I called a guy who will come and fix mowers on site.  I've used him before.  He does good work and is honest and his deal is "fix on site".  But to be honest, he usually has to take the mower away.  But at least he will do that.  He did something neat that I will have to remember.  He bypassed the choke by spraying carburater cleaner down the removed air filter!  That primed the starter!  Hey, I didn't know.  Maybe you did.  LOL!  I'm a gardener and woodworker.  When it comes to engines, I'm lost.   I have 2 gas chainsaws in the basement and I can't make them stay running.  That's why I have an electric one.  It always works!

So he started it right up (Starting the mower was not the problem when the choke lever worked) and drove it onto his truck.  If I had known that trick before he came, I would have mowed the lawn first.  It is already 4" high and growing.  When I get the mower back in a week, it will be 6-8" high.  This time of year, you CAN actually watch the grass grow!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mis-Labeled Plants

I ordered Coreopsis Golden Gain and got THESE.

Any idea what they are?

Busy Time

My apologies, I am a bit busy these days.  At day, it is garden time, so I am either working hard or recovering from it.  And at night I watch MSNBC or videos.  And have I got a great video...  I saw bits of it when it was on Cable, but I have the whole DVD set now.

I'm obsessed with HackDotSign right now.

In the series, there is an interactive world-wide internet game called "The World".  Sort of a Sword and Sorcery world, but much more involved inter-personally than that.  The trick here is that there is one character who cannot logout and isn't sure what "the real world" is.  And he is a real jerk to most people.  Not in the mean or cruel sense but because he has no real-world connections and can't relate.

I think he may be in a real-world psychiatric ward or involved in an accident (in the show). 

And he has problems, a mystery he is trying to solve, and some mysterious friends no one else can see.  And some he can who are trying to help him but he can't understand that.  I watch a couple hours of that each night, but I think there are at least a couple of week's worth.

So I am kind of preoccupied for a while.  Sorry...  I'll visit when I can.

The cats are happy, they get to sit on my lap for hours.

If you ever saw the series, let me know that you liked or didn't like it.  OK either way.  And for whatever it means, I sure would like to be like the character "Bear".

And I don't know how it ends, so please don't mention anything about that.


Friday, April 15, 2011

A Bit Of A Report

Sorry I haven't been posting here regularly.  I get more involved in the Mark's Mews blog about the cats.  Their pictures are more interesting.  And I haven't been very active with home projects lately.  Weeding the gardens is not very exciting, and everytime I want to go to the local project store to get wood, it starts to rain.  So (for example), my plans to build new plant light shelves is still on hold...

And my gardening work tends to end up on the cats' blog.  I'll have to find a way to balance that.  "They" get to show off the results, so I will have to start posting more about the weeding and digging here.  Fortunately, I have a few dozen new plants on order, so I will have some new things to show soon.

One major effort is too enlarge the areas of successful plants.  When I started flowerbeds, I ordered "6 of this" and "9 of that".  The results were a bit chaotic.  I am moving more toward larger areas of the ones that have done best.  And bringing several small plantings of one plant together.  For example, I have 18 astilbes in 3 places and I think it would look better to have them all in the one place where they seem happiest.  The two other places, they just struggle to survive.  One place is too sunny and the other is too shady.

The back of the flowerbeds has always been unsatisfying.  I originally planted 5 butterfly bushes, interspersed with 2 euonymus shrubs, 2 spring flowering almonds, and some nandina.  And the butterfly bushes are so old that the yearly prune-back has made them weak.  Even perennials don't thrive forever.  The euonymus shrubs are twice the claimed size and are shading everything.  Plus they send up shoots everywhere.  It is time for a clean sweep of the background shrubs.  That is going to be a job removing them all, but it will be worth it.  And I may be able to use some of them in other parts of the yard.

I plan to plant new smaller red butterfly bushes, put nandina in between for winter color, and move the euonymus along front creek for privacy and erosion control.  They can grow full size there.  I haven't thought of a good place for the spring flowering almond shrubs, but they are only interesting for a couple of weeks each year  so they may not be much of a loss.

Meanwhile, I did do a lot of weeding the past week.  Every location has their own annoying weeds, but mine are purple deadnettle, some creeping grass that spreads through runners, and some damn little plant with tiny white flowers on it (and the seeds jump away when the plant is touched.  The good news is that I think I got at them this year before they could go to seed.  There are others like thistle and dandelion, but they never get to seed here, they just grow from windblown seeds in other yards and I can't stop that.

I don't have many weed problems, usually.  This was a great year for the purple deadnettles though.
They are all OVER the front lawn.  I'm never seen this before.  They apparently love sunlight because they only grew beyond the shadow of the house.  Well, they only live a few weeks, so it could be worse.

They do annoy me though, because I maintain the yard organically and it mostly works.  I apply corn gluten each Spring and Fall, and that stuff supresses initial root development, and mowing at 3" usually shades out most weeds.  Here's an example:

This is a view down my property line.  My yard is on the left.  My neighbor uses synthetic weed killer  and major fertilizer stuff and mows his lawn down like a pool table.   I mow my yard to 3" and use organic stuff.  Biggify the picture to see where all the dandelions and crabgrasses are... And my grass IS greener without anything added but the 9-2-2 corn gluten.
Yes, he doesn't have the purple deadnettle.  I have to think about that one...  But I bet if I took a core sample of his lawn and mine that the soil is richer many inches down in mine and almost dead in his.

And here's something else.  I have honeybees in MY yard.  I don't think they live IN my yard, but they sure come here to feed.
In fact, it was becoming hazardous to walk around the yard before I mowed the lawn deadnettles down.  Don't worry, they still have plenty to feed from, there are large unmowed areas.  But I have difficult childhood stinging issues and the memories remain...  So where I walk, it is mowed.