Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Feed me beans and nightshades

In this bed, the sweet pepper, eggplant, basil, and tomatoes are thriving, and the black eyed pea seedlings are up. I chose small varieties of tomatoes this year, so no waiting months for ripe fruit!
Luckily, the eggplant liked the heat under this row cover. Some flea beetles still made their way in, but all three seed-grown eggplants are doing well. Now comes the easy part, just waiting for harvest!

Basque Country Wildflowers

Ten days away from the garden and all is well. Unfortunately I did not grab any photos of the many small gardens I saw from the window of the train and bus (many were tucked along the tracks or raodways). I did spot some amazing wildflowers like this one while hiking along the coast. Stay tuned for all of the before and after shots of the garden--quite a transformation in ten days!
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Birds ... Trauma

Late last week the robins that nested on my downspout began acting strangely--much more vocal, dive bombing me, etc. I am guessing this was because their two babies would be leaving the nest soon.
Sunday, I was laying out a soaker hose when a ruckus erupted above me. All of a sudden the two babies were on the ground, and they looked robust and feathered. One ended up in a neighbor's yard--I am guessing the robins thought that one could handle life on its own since it flew across the street, or else they had given up on it.
The other one ended up caught in the bird net on my strawberry row! Oh, the guilt. Luckily I spotted it in time and was able to un-entangle it. This was traumatic, for me and the birds. You always hear to not touch baby birds, but this one must have been old enough. It made its way out of my yard into a relatively protected area. The adults are still protecting and feeding it. I made sure to toss them plenty of grubs and worms as I finished off my last raised bed.
I already knew this, but I could never raise chickens (even if Arlington eventually allows it). As a person who, upon finding a nest of voles in her compost pile, placed each one carefully at the mother's nest opening under my shed, I just can't handle "nature's way."

Friday, May 13, 2011

Bloom Day

There's a fair amount going on in the garden in midMay, but all I see is potential--and work to be done! I learn so much from checking out other garden bloggers' bloom days.

First, the food plants:
Fava beans, love those spots! Maybe I will get a decent harvest of beans this time. I see a warm up coming soon, though, so I may have missed the timing on these yet again. Once they're done, okra is going here, plus winter squash.
Cilantro--already saw a honeybee and a ladybug enjoying these. I'll let this get established for a continual supply of cilantro in cool weather, and get some fresh coriander seed. Flat leaf parsley is blooming too, another pollinator lure.
My first pea flower! (again, the stress of the warm weather coming may doom these, but my tomatoes and peppers are already blooming on the bright side)
black raspberry (the mammoth blackberry is blooming too--I better get the freezer and canning pot ready):
Now the flowers:
The rose I inherited (I'm meh about it, and it sits in the last neglected corner of the yard). Once I solve the shed problem, this corner will be dealt with, but it really needs a rain garden. There is actually a far prettier rose in the center of this one. Roses perplex me.
Tiarella (foamflower) and soon, behind it, the Itea (sweetspire, my new favorite shrub). I'm thrilled at how the native plant garden turned out. It just needs one more plant (I'm thinking a small Fothergilla tree in the empty spot).
Soon, the lavender I gave a much-needed pruning just in time. This is the bed that needs major widening.
This lavender did not recover from the pruning, but I need this space for a blueberry anyway:
Campanula and Veronica (I like the way flowers look before they bloom almost as much as when they bloom!)
Baptisia (false indigo): Sorry for the blur--trying to catch the ladybug!
In the front yard, the new Spirea and Dianthus, soon the Dahlias and Sedum. Still waiting to fill that spot behind the Dianthus and to move some to the other side of house for balance.
native honeysuckle, just waiting for hummingbirds!
Heuchera, soon to be joined by Astilbe and Hydrangea:
the "driveway" garden, full of wallflower, Dianthus, forget-me-nots, and columbines
Allium atropurpureum:
The latest inhabitant of my teal pots at the front door, ice plant:
Note to self: enjoy the blooms, and try not to think about all the work to be done!

Harvest Win!

The parsnips did much better than the carrots--not only are these a decent size, they smelled fantastic when I pulled them out of the ground! It's a paltry harvest, as the old seeds are germinating spottily, so they were a "just because" planting. I am encouraged enought to plant more this fall (or late summer) for a fall and winter harvest. The beets will be the next test subject.

Berry Countdown!

The berry watch continues. The blues are getting bluer...
the strawberries are getting redder...
and the mulberries are getting eaten by birds (but I may try to snag a few).

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why Do Carrots Hate Me?

Harvest Fail!
They're small, but they look decent enough, though, if a little pale. Unfortunately I did not taste before roasting. The flavor was something akin to cardboard. Notes to self: 1) perhaps carrots should not be overwintered 2) give up on carrots, except the adorable round ones.

Progress, Finally!

It was a grueling few days' work, but the new beds are (just about) finished!

This 5' by 5' bed was easy to dig, but then it required a gazillion bags of compost and top soil to fill up the second layer in the middle (I usually place my raised bed borders low and mix the native soil with compost and some purchased top soil as needed). I wanted to make sure I prepared the bed well for the rhubarb--and I better get lots of pie next year!
That second layer is 3' by 3', which is probably the minimum needed for rhubarb, and I am pressing my luck with the 1' third layer box (in which I intend to place mint to keep it from running amuck, but maybe will plant a few flowers instead).
The bottom layer holds herbs and my beautiful seed-grown Tunisian baklouti peppers from Baker Creek.
I am partitioning the two 3' by 8' beds in half, with both getting half nightshades (tomatoes and eggplant, and some sweet peppers I'll purchase at the farmers' market, plus basil). The Listada di Gandia eggplant, also grown from seed, will remain under row cover until it is past the point of flea beetle susceptibility.
The other halves of both beds will be planted with squash (another Baker Creek variety, lemon) and beans (Limas and Black Eyed Peas from Botanical Interests), but I'll wait a few weeks for warmer weather to seed those, some winter squash, and okra (in another bed).
Next project, irrigation!

Berry Sneaky

Soon after I put the first net on the blueberries, I had to extricate an entangled robin. I made sure to pull the net taught and secure it after that. You would think after all the worms I have made available for those robins they would cut me some slack with the berries.
I've got to remember where I bought these nets, as those above are nearly transparent, but this one is thick and ugly. This morning I managed to scare off some squirrels before they could do any damage, but I think they were actually digging for something else. The service berry is full of berries, and I already caught a squirrel breaking off a snack of unripe(!) berries. I'll have little chance of eating any of these.
Fruit is a pain, so it's a good thing it is so pretty considering the precious little I'll get to eat without making it Fort Knox.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Goldfinches share a sorrel snack

As I was watching this goldfinch flit around on my patio, I was surprised to see it hop up onto the sorrel seed pod and start snacking, soon joined by its mate (maybe).
This is their usual spot, the finch feeder hanging on our awesome Carolina Gamecock hook.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Plant Death and Renewal

Japanese maple, ripIt happens, and at least this Japanese Maple was purchased on clearance. It lived through snowmageddon and an awful summer, then something went wrong over its second winter. It is mostly sad because it was one of the first "big" plant purchases we made for DinkyDo. A Spirea "Neon Flash" is taking its place, giving us some much needed early spring color, along with the Dianthus of course.
Another goner was the Gardenia--it was clear it was just not going to thrive--though it also survived a winter of three feet of snow, and then came back from a wet spring after all hope was lost. The moisture problem in this spot was not able to be solved by me. The yew next to it was looking pretty rough, so I moved over some of the expanding Nandina from the other side of the house. The heather was doing nicely, so I added a couple more--failing to bring my tag, I picked them randomly at the garden center.

Now I need one more plant to fill a space on the front corner (maybe a ninebark), and a couple more Spirea for balance and some color on the other side ... and more Dianthus and Sedum, and then I am really truly finished with the front yard.