Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Curb Appeal

To replace the holly and cypresses, we planted a weeping Japanese red maple (we got a great deal), a Pieris (also called Andromeda, pictured below), some Dianthus, and a heather plant--all alongside the azalea we had previously planted. I added a downspout diverter to make sure they don't get too much water (it'll hide among the daylilies, which are spreading like crazy in the background.). That, and the soaker hose, have not been disguised yet.
I am not crazy about neatly mulched beds, but until we get these gaps filled in and these plants get well established, it is a necessity. I am going to pull it back from the heather and Dianthus though, as I just read they don't like it. I'm not sure heather (to the right of the Pieris) was the best choice, but as the soil was worked really well, I think it may drain well enough for it. If that is the only thing that does not make it, I will be a happy girl.
We also had a bare spot among the yew, so I planted a Gardenia (above)--yes I am aware that it may die in the winter. But it says frost hardy for zone 7, so we'll give it a try and enjoy the fragrance for now. That's another heather in front of it.
The side yard was a blank slate, with a narrow empty bed already in place. We planted Camellias in front of the two windows and two Heucheras (purple leaves), and I'm spreading the violets around. It's a work in progress obviously, but looks so much better already. Now I just need a sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus) to finish out the area.

Finally, the long bed along the driveway was full of weeds when we moved in. I sowed a shade-loving mix that is thriving but full of biennials that won't bloom till next year. I have major plans for the most shaded part of the strip, which is currently full of wild strawberry. I can't wait until fall to plant that!

Plant Death

The Dinkydo came with a little bit of landscaping, with some plants in better shape than others. None would have been my ideal choice, but I like the front yard to be low maintenance, and I certainly wasn't looking to replace the existing healthy plantings, some of which have nice all-season color. But this holly and these two cypresses were not doing well, and the spring rains did not do anything to help.
We finally had them evaluated at the garden center. They aren't coming back, and it could have been a sun issue (though I think there is enough sun there now, reportedly there was a tree removed next door that could have contributed), or it could have been a water issue--too much or not enough, who knows. The ones at the other end of the house are doing fine, and they seem to get less water, so I am thinking maybe the downspout drowned the roots of the trio, who were weakened by shade from the old tree for years. Still a mystery though. We removed them, which is always sad, but we planted lots of new things in their place--coming next post.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Trap Crops

Like marigolds, nasturtium is a good garden companion because it reputedly repels pest insects, but it is also beneficial for attracting insects. In this case, black aphids. I pulled the whole plant out and discarded it, and I have not seen any aphids infesting anything else. There's plenty more nasturtiums at the ready--and they are not busy blooming or anything, as I think the garden soil is too rich for them. Hopefully some of the ones I have planted around the yard will bloom soon. There's nothing prettier than a nasturtium blossom floating in a bowl of cucumber soup in summer!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Plant Supports 2

For the cucumbers that are just starting to take off, I installed this tent-pole like structure and attached netting. If it works as planned, the cucumbers will hang down through the trellis for easy picking--and as a bonus keep them off the ground.
Underneath the "tent" is mesclun, and I'm hoping the shade from the cucumber vines will provide a nice little microclimate and extend my lettuce into summer.

Plant supports

The flimsy tomato cages I found upon moving in had to go, so I carefully pulled them off
(only losing a few cherry tomatoes in the process), for the greater good of tall sturdy tomato towers. They are v-shaped, so provide easier access when it's time to eat. I am still a little worried a fierce storm could topple them since they are planted in my fluffy raised bed soil, but they seem sturdy enough. They also give the tomatoes a lot of breathing room (top photo). I pruned a little for more air circulation and tied them with twine in a few places to ensure they really grab on.
I am also using shorter version of these towers (you can see where I accidentally ordered two colors, so the bottoms are red and the tops green) to support my peppers (bottom right of photo at left), tomatillos, lima beans (bush) , and eggplant.
In my second bed, I have a later addition, a black zebra tomato I had to have (left). That one is my experiment, as it is growing on a curved pole. It'll be interesting to see how it does. It struggled a bit, and a second one I purchased died, but it seems to be doing well now.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Berries for the birds

We ate our first blueberries this week. A variety called "Duke" that I purchased from Whole Foods that already had green berries. I'm going to plant another, because although I've read that duke will continue to produce, another variety nearby will ensure cross-pollination and even more fruit. For the birds. I guess I should have thrown up a net before they started ripening, as the birds are now pecking away with impunity. I was worried more about the rabbit (below) and the squirrels, who I am trying to bribe with seed, but it seems my beloved robins are my competition for my favorite fruit. Next year I will try a net, but I've heard once the fruit is ripe this is pointless. I don't want to scare off the birds with a big fake owl (does that ever work?), but a few trinkets hung around the bush may scare off the offenders. CDs look incredibly tacky, so I'll have to search for some shiny things.
Trouble with wildlife? You Grow Girl has some great tips.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Hydrangea Spots

Sitting in a pot in constant rain did no favors to my hydrangea. I think the leaf spots are a fungus, Cercospora. It apparently won't kill it, so I see no need to

try any kind of sprays.
I pruned all of the affected leaves, which has the added benefit of improving the air circulation--a contributing factor to the condition. It fortunately isn't affecting the blooms in the slightest!
This page has descriptions of other hydrangea diseases:

Monday, June 15, 2009

Night of the Lepus

Had a visitor to the yard last night--this impossibly cute bunny. I think it mostly nibbled on fallen apples.
It just better stay away from my lettuce.

Friday, June 12, 2009

First harvest

Other than herbs and a brief successful stint of winter gardening at the beach, this is first thing I have grown and eaten: radishes. They didn't get very long like breakfast radishes should, but they were delicious and so easy to grow. It's getting hot now, so I think I'll harvest one more batch and then wait until fall.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Square Foot Skeptics

As you will shortly learn, I am not much for meticulous preparation--I prefer to learn by doing. I've read lots of gardening books over the years and dabbled in gardening, but when a yard finally came into my possession in April, I jumped right in. I did not test the soil, I dug the grass out (just me and a shovel, and Mr. Do too), placed two 3x6 cedar raised beds, and filled them with topsoil and compost. There was no time to waste with the spring planting season underway. Luckily we've had constant rain and cool weather to delay things.
Since then, I've been planting seeds and transplants--and rearranging them. Much of my research has supported intensive plant spacing--and I mostly followed a diagram showing me how much I could plant per square foot. But now these tomatoes are really taking off, so I moved all of my perennial herbs to a new permanent bed. And soon, the radishes and carrots will be gone, so the tomatoes will have more space. Are you "square foot gardening"? How have you spaced your plants?