Friday, June 28, 2013

All Green All the Time

My garden still occupies most of my free time. Too bad I have deadline knitting to finish, as I am not getting much of that done. Today is rainy, so I am hoping to knock that out - I need it for a baby shower tomorrow! The rainy weather does give a nice luxuriant look to my garden pictures if you are careful to ignore the fact that the lawn is getting shaggy. I am not so interested in grass.

We are harvesting lettuce, edible flowers, and sugar snap peas. I did not plant any shelling peas, as I have no intention of sitting around shelling them. Too much work for the payoff. We have enough growth on most of my herbs to harvest enough for our immediate needs, although the rosemary is not big enough to even think about. There is enough lettuce to share with our friends. I had to order epazote seeds again, in hopes that warmer temperatures may give me better germination. I added some chamomile to the pot where I am growing cucumbers because I heard it would improve the quality of my cukes. Since this is the first time I have grown any I am not sure I will be able to tell if they are improved or not. The beans have gotten over their early season sulk and ruinous chewing by some mystery creature. Both bush and pole beans are getting ready to bloom.

All  the flower plants I have purchased or transplanted are doing well (the Monarda and Four o' Clock maybe too well), but I think ants got most of the flower seeds. Next time I will start them in pots and transplant. I have tried mightily to get money plant to grow in one corner of the garden by transplanting seedlings from the corner where it arrived from my neighbor with discouraging results, but I think it has volunteered in a different corner of the same bed. Apparently it does not care for all day sun. I'll take it wherever it wants to grow. The gladiolas whose return I had not expected are getting monstrous, with lots of little offsets. I can't wait to see if the babies are the same color as the mamas. The flower part of the sunny garden is at the point where it is full, given the mature size of the plants, but looks a little bare at the moment. Some plants are not blooming yet, and all will be much bigger in a year or two. I actually do not have room for any more plants in any existing beds if all of the plants living there now survive.  Next year I will turn my attention to the improvement of the shrub border underplantings. That's a large enough space that it should take me several years to exhaust the possibilities. Then I will enlarge the island bed in the front of the yard. Then I will....who knows? There is no end to it!

The holly seedlings I got from Wanda may not survive. I removed one of the seedlings to replace with a nice variegated hydrangea from Inace's garden that was unhappy where it was growing, and did not see any activity on the roots. One of the  remaining two seedlings has developed a markedly green stem, so I have great hopes for it. If the one on the other end of the bed survives I will be content. Time will tell.

I think my volunteer fern is Onoclea Sensibilis, Sensitive Fern. It is spreading a little (apparently by rhizome, which gives me more evidence for the identification), so I assume it is happy where I planted it.  Shana questioned where I put it, but I let her know that plants will move around a bit to get to a more suitable spot. I planted it in the shadiest spot with the most leaf mold to give it the best chance to take, and it looks like it is moving in the direction of the place I want most to fill. Success! Searching around the Internet has called several ferns to my attention that I wish I had, so naturally I am now imagining where I can squeeze in more ferns. I will probably die of heartbreak of I cannot acquire a Criss-cross Fern.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Song of the Day

Our Wedding, originally uploaded by cinderellenk.
Doma is over. My wife and I can share in the rights, privledges, and protections of the Federal Government.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Our Friends and Neighbors

The borders of my yard are porous. Plants come in to live (or be ruthlessly removed), and animals come and go as they please. For a while a skunk was living under my shed. If he is there now we are keeping such different schedules that we are not disturbing each other. Four squirrels live in my yard against my will. They sit on the railing of my shed waiting for me to fill the bird feeders, and apparently spend the rest of their time burying acorns among my flowers which germinate into stubborn seedlings to pull out. This morning I surprised a chipmunk checking out the veggie patch.

I also have a lot of insect life. Although there is a beehive across the street I usually see wilder pollinators. Bumble bees, smaller bees and wasps, butterflies and helicopter moths visit at will. Insect predators follow: spiders and dragonflies wait for their chance.

I have a lot of birds visiting as well, and since it looks to have been a good reproductive season so far I am hoping to attract even more birds next year. I have seen baby blue jays, robins, cardinals and doves so far this year. I have seen pairs of orioles, house finches and goldfinches, downy and hairy woodpeckers, nuthatches, titmice, red winged blackbirds and a few different sparrows. This morning I saw a single catbird visiting. Of course we have grackles, cowbirds, and crows, fortunately not in huge numbers. These days I generally see the crows being chased away by smaller birds. The crows themselves chase away a red tailed hawk when it comes too close.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Work in Progress

One of the things I liked most about our house is that the yard is rather large with a variety of exposures. I don't really have space for a number of grand garden "rooms", but within the bounds of a smaller garden I have few limits on what I can grow.

The limit I do have is budget.  Consequently I have had to start several projects with some very small steps. Fortunately as a child I filled my personal garden with cuttings and gifts from my grandparent's gardens. Along with my plans both simple and grandiose for my current spaces I have experience with filling up a garden with free plants.  I want to replicate in one corner a luxurious display of hostas and hydrangeas. Instead of mature shrubs and plants I have started with offsets from my late mother-in-law's garden and divisions from my own hostas supplemented by a very few purchased hostas of rather small sizes. It is in its second summer now, and may look quite nice next year. I actually am planning for the look I want to appear in year five.

My sunny bed  surrounding the veggie patch went in this year with a few small purchases and a selection of divisions from Inace supplemented by a few divisions from my own garden. I am trying to be sure that each bed has its own character and selection of plants, so I really only added a few liatris and some montauk daisies from my existing beds. The liatris is something I have all around the yard, so I am considering it to be something of a theme plant, keeping in mind that as a prairie wildflower it has the ability to carry all before it. The Montauk daisy likewise is repeated around the yard. Neither of these plants seem to be commonly growing in anyone's garden in the neighborhood but they are doing well in mine. With only a few additions next year this area should look full and luxuriant.  I'm planning for some bearded iris, poppies, asiatic lilies and columbine. One thing I do want to add to this area is an ornament of some kind for the back wall of my shed. I may be able to create something during the winter to make the shred wall into a visual asset.

a row of pitiful sticks
The shrub border between my yard and my southernmost neighbor is more problematic, because I am looking at about a hundred feet of no budget. Right now it is a row of assorted sticks. Eventually it will be a mixed border with perennial flowers, hostas and ground covers but even the most ambitious plan must start somewhere. Every plant currently in this row was free. Not all would have been my first choices, but it will be an attractive mix of flowering shrubs and  small trees with interest from early spring to late fall. I can't ask for more than that. The sheer volume of mulch required to put my plans into action is somewhat daunting, given that the quantity I can bring in from the dump on each visit depends on the number of bins I want to fill and unload each time. I may ask for a couple yards of mulch for my birthday next year!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Potluck Post

I spend a fair bit of time tooling around the Internet these days, posting to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I keep my hand in with little tiny posts of unrelated content and keep an eye on my family and blog buddies in a very distracted way. Not only have I gone too long between longer posts at my own blog, but I don't get around to everyone else's pages as often as I should. Lazy Bones!  The excuse is, as always, that everyday life does not always provide the kind of activities and news that fill out a single subject post. Therefore, today will be potluck post time, including a bunch of unrelated pictures!

Most of my time lately is spent out in the garden, planting, mulching and obsessively weeding. Between the cool weather and the frequent torrential (for Massachusetts) rain most things are growing slower than I would like. I am disappointed, but patient. I wish the insect I have never seen that is biting off the leaves of my beans every night would stop right now. Some plants are enjoying this weather to no end. I had an interesting fern volunteer next to my bulkhead, and a dicentra pop up at the edge of my fire pit. Money plant has sneaked in (with some poison ivy, grrr ) from my neighbor and a couple of violas hid in my grass. I picked up a wad of day lilies from the dump (planted in a segregated area in case they prove to be thugs). All have found homes in my garden. Cute volunteers are welcome because I currently have no plant budget. Two of the puny sticks I planted in my future shrub border that I thought had died turned out not to be dead after all. One dogwood looked like there was a little hope so I was just watching it.  It finally leafed out and looks to be OK. The other was a probable viburnum that I actually dug up to remove when I saw a teeny bit of growth in the roots. I put it back in the ground and it has put out a couple of leaves. No great shakes yet but there is plenty of warm weather ahead so I'll wait until next year to decide its fate. Maybe the holly seedlings I planted will recover after all.  I am currently squinting at the shrub border and imagining it as lush shrubs beautifully underplanted with a stunning mix of ground covers and flowering perennials. (lots of) Time will tell if I am able to put my plan into action. Probably I will start at one end and fill it out over time.  I saw a shade garden in Menahaunt Monday that just made me sick with envy - what looked like a whole lot planted with ornamental trees and shrubs with mulch paths leading one around to admire all of the stunning underplantings. sigh. Clearly professionally designed and maintained. Still, even in the most unattainable gardens we can all get inspiration.

Lucky for us we have a membership at Coonamessett Farm and can pick and buy fresh produce there at good prices. We went last weekend and I got my eggs fresh from under the chickens.  First time for me and I must say, moderately thrilling. I expected the chickens to peck at me, but I guess they are used to such treatment and did not object. Next weekend I hope to beat the birds to some blueberries.

I am trying to get out for a long bike ride every week by myself, and a shorter one with Shana. Finding a good half day when I am not working AND the weather is dry(ish) has been challenging, but by then end of this month the weather will be more reliable. There will be more tourists on the path, but early on a weekday morning I expect it to be very tolerable.

I went vegetarian in April - just read that one article too many about commercial farming. Fortunately I like nearly every kind of veggie and there is already a lot of variety in my diet. Eggs and dairy are still in the mix for now. I know a few people who are vegan but eat from a very narrow selection of foods. That would take too much planning for me, and probably not all that healthy. I like having some quick meals in the mix and a lot of choices for when I feel like cooking.

Knitting continues, albeit with reduced time spent because of gardening and cycling commitments, with one secret baby item and a pair of basic socks for myself. The time is coming for the switch from mostly selfish knitting to mostly holiday gift knitting. I have supplies for most of the gift items already purchased and patterns selected.  I must say I am looking forward to most of it. There are some patterns I have not tried before, and one item that I will be creating from scratch: pattern, knitting, and embellishment. Not an exciting item, except for the recipient, but I am enjoying the process of planning how it will be done. If it turns out I will share the pattern for sure.

I ran across something this morning I never thought I'd see, although it should not surprise me. There is an iPad apps for cats! You can go to this site and download cat games for your touch screen phone or iPad.  The whole world is now automated.